Painting and Drawing
In a Waldorf school, all students study drawing, painting, and the rudiments of clay modeling. In grades one through six, visual arts are taught by the class teacher. Drawing is part of the main lesson, while painting is taught in a separate period, although the themes are generally taken from main lesson subjects. The finest materials are always used, including high-quality watercolor paper, beeswax crayons, and artist’s colored pencils. The overall purpose of the visual arts program is not only to teach students to draw and paint, but also to teach them how to observe carefully.
In the fourth grade, colored pencils are introduced. With these the students learn to draw maps, and are also able to complete accurate sketches and diagrams for their science classes, especially botany and physiology. Form drawing continues in fourth grade with intricate Celtic knots and in fifth grade with Greek frieze patterns. Calligraphy is introduced in sixth grade. From sixth through eighth grades, students also use their pencils to create the complex forms they study in geometry. In painting classes, older students begin sometimes to paint on dry paper, allowing them to return to their work over several days. They also pre-mix their own colors and study veil and layer painting techniques. Students are challenged to develop skill in creating fuller, more detailed compositions. Seventh-grade students no longer paint with the class teacher but take classes in the art studio. In these grades, the children often work with clay during main lessons, creating animals, cuneiform tablets, and other figures based on main lesson subjects.
The woodwork curriculum begins in fourth grade, with students spending a double period each week in the shop. Woodwork is taught in such a way as to train the student’s senses and help them develop good work habits. Children begin the course with required projects strategically selected by the instructor that often relate to subject matter taught in main lesson. Projects have both a practical and sculptural element to them.
In the fourth grade, children create mallets out of branches of hard wood. This special type of hammer is used to drive the gouge, one of the main hand tools used, in the shop.
Fifth grade students design and carve a matching salad spoon and fork. Students are encouraged to consider the relationship between form and function in their design. This project hones the student’s skill in gouging and thoroughness in sanding.
Sixth grade students have the choice of making a soprano, alto or tenor recorder out of bamboo. Finished recorders must be functional – playing up to an octave in the major scale. This project where the sound produced is based on proportions and accurate measurements. The students learn to tune the recorders and are challenged to train their hearing.
In fourth grade handwork, students focus on the use of needle and thread. Their first project is an embroidered sewing case. This valuable tool holds their pins, needles and thread throughout the year. For their next project, the children design and embroider a handwork bag that holds their handwork for the next few years. They are taught several stitches to complete this bag, including the backstitch, the invisible stitch, a buttonhole stitch and several embroidery stitches. Their next main project is a cross-stitched pouch. The pouch is an experience of working with several colors of embroidery floss, ranging from dark to like-blending the colors in a harmonious way while creating a mirror image pattern. This project especially awakens the student’s awareness for a sense of beauty and logic.
The fifth graders return to knitting. Their first project is a handwork pouch, which can hold a small pad, and a sock pattern book and pen, so they can keep track of their progress on their main project, a pair of socks. For the first time, children are knitting in the round using four needles. This project calls upon the student’s ability to think spatially while creating a three-dimensional object. This project has many challenges; the directions are complicated and therefore, it calls upon the child’s will to preserver in the face of difficulty. Some children continue to make mittens, fingerless gloves or try their hand at cable knitting.
The sixth graders meet once a week for a double period of handwork. They are divided into two groups that meet for half the year, alternating with woodworking class. The children make a stuffed animal. They begin by making a charcoal drawing of their animal, and then create a pattern from their drawing, adding the necessary pieces that will make their animal a standing three-dimensional object. They carefully hand stitch their animal and stuff it with wool fleece. This activity challenges both their imagination and skill.